The Maccabees make a fun and moving video about something that we can all identify with: "First Love." But it's also something we rarely understand...
VIDEO: "First Love" directed by Terry Hall
"first love, lost love, only love...it's only love!"
The chalk on the street is evidence of the crime committed. It's evidence of the victim's pain, proof of what has been lost and the impetus to solve the case.
But it isn't a body on the street. It isn't a direct encounter with death but an implication of the feeling. It's a sterile ideal vision of murder and death, one that can be used in children's movies as much as in CSI.
The woman on the pavement in "First Love," who first appears as if a dead body herself, is mistakenly associating the loss of her "first love" with the death of love itself - for her and the others in this video, it is no longer possible to find love, because it has been murdered by "first love".
But they are drawing the chalk outlines themselves - literally outlining their own bodies, kissing their own lip-sticked fists or pressing their own hands into clay in order to recreate the feeling of "first love." Most people encounter this "love" long before they have ever had their first serious relationship. We imagine the ideal relationship as one of doubling, of two people fitting together perfectly to "complete" each other (as the band puts it, "symetricool"). We essentially are in love with ourselves, and seek a partner simply to justify and prove the worthiness of that love.
The hypnotic perfection of "first love" which builds in our minds from the minute our ideal is broken, is an excuse to hold on to childhood fantasy. The Maccabees ask "do you miss home?" and it is precisely this disconnect from the protection of fathers and mothers that initially leads us to hold so dearly to the ideal of a perfect union. We seek to recreate the safety of that environment (or if we've never had it, find it for the first time), a place where we are completely sure that we are loved, and that it is ok to love ourselves.
The first step in moving past the memory of that blissful happiness (which seems more perfect with each passing year) is to recognize that nothing is perfect, and that it's ok. Most people wouldn't even know if they where in a great relationship or not, because they are so caught up in judging it against this one image they have in their minds. There is one scene in the video where we realize that two of these characters are in fact in contact with each other. One of them hides in trunks of cars while the other attempts to force two puzzle pieces together - it's very plausible that they are even thinking of each other when they do this, remembering the initial waves of feeling they had.
The irony that the song illuminates is that even our first relationship ended for some reason, whether it was because it could never live up to our dreams our some unstoppable natural disaster has separated us - what is clear is that we must accept the imperfection of existence and embrace it.
And what the video shows us is that we are very capable of this, and in fact, we do it all the time. Notice the way in which you feel for these characters, at least one of them speaks to you in some way, and you understand what they are going through even as you laugh at their extremism. We love them because they are human, just like us, just like everyone. And there is nothing to say that a lemon and a cactus can't stand next to each other (just one of the series of images the video juxtaposes).
But the video and the song are buried under the same nostalgia that they seem to want to escape from. The final seconds soar on the vocalist's melancholic wail "it's only love!", and it seems that there is a resignation to the impossibility of letting go of first love, as the woman leans in closer to her chalked self. Because of course few will ever admit to finding truth in a statement like "it's only love," since love is the ideal, it is in fact for most all there is.
We may not be able to deny our need for human connection, but that's not to say that any one love we have is necessarily better than the rest, especially if the only criteria for that comparison is which came first. Yes people you are with take something from you, as you take from them, but it isn't in the sense that you have lost “a part of you” - other than your innocence (which was never really a “part” of you anyway, just a perecption of the world). You are simply impacting their lives, becoming a part of their memory, but you remain completely you. And loss of innocence is the gain of knowledge. You are always capable of more love, greater love, and further growth.
More than anything, before we can ever properly care for another human being, we must first feel comfortable in loving ourselves - without outside justification. Because the ultimate justification for loving anyone, the only reason you ever need, is that they are human – as are you.